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Hurting Kids Deliberately

Deliberateness is a tricky issue, whether it comes to hurting kids, making mistakes, or breaking promises. Parents do all kinds of stuff kids hate and still think they "meant well" – including sometimes literally beating their kid up. If I honestly meant well, was I "deliberately" hurting my kid? What if I think I meant well, but I was lying to myself?

Parents often consciously and intentionally choose actions which hurt their kids. Their goal isn't to hurt their kid, but they know he will find it painful to have his phone taken away for a month, and they take the phone anyway.

Why do parents hurt their kids?

  • They think it's justice (kid did something bad).
  • They think it's educational (makes it memorable, seems to "work" in that kid stops doing the things the parent yells/hits/punishes about).
  • They think it's good for the kid somehow, possibly because a positive outweighs the negative. E.g. leaving a baby alone in a crib to cry himself to sleep is a negative, but some people think it's a larger positive for the child to learn to sleep in his own room. They don't know that the child stops crying because he learns his parent won't help him, so the child gives up on problem solving and happiness (in some ways, not all ways).
  • Habit.
  • Carelessness.
  • Accident.
  • Anger (they will say they didn't deliberately choose to be angry).
  • Not having much control over what one does/says/feels in one's life in general.
  • Doing common, normal parenting behaviors without thinking about whether they are hurtful.

None of these involve consciously thinking, "I will now hurt my kid, on purpose, just for the sake of hurting him." (That would clearly be deliberate.)

Regardless of deliberateness, the child is still hurt. Whether or not the parent is morally guilty, it's an ongoing, recurring problem that needs to be addressed so that the child stops getting hurt.

Elliot Temple on July 15, 2018


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